A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s classic comedy, tells of a civilized kingdom that, for a little while, gives way to the dreams and mischief of the faery world. It follows two unsettled couples from a nearby court as they travel through the forest and become pawns of a faery king.
King Oberon is trying to fool his faery queen into giving up one of her favorite companions, so she can rain all her affection again upon him. He takes an interest in a couple of Athenian youths, Helena, who loves Demetrius, and Demetrius, who loves not Helena but instead, her friend Hermia. Oberon enlists the sprite Puck to help rectify this, using a potion that will make the receiver fall in love with the next thing he sees, as he takes out a similar plot on his wife. Hijinks ensue.
Midsummer is one of the most commonly performed of Shakespeare’s plays, for its amusing juxtaposition of words, communities, and high and lowbrow tastes, too. In this production, Shakespeare’s world gets the (early) 60s treatment. Keeping faithful to the language of the bard, this addition affects the costumes and the music, mainly. The 60s are delightfully on point in the latter case, with interludes of angel-voiced faery attendants singing pop and doo-wop hits punctuating the scenes and set changes.
Shakespeare is never easy on actors, but this group brought a lot of spirit and understanding to the intricate and allusive wordplay. Joey Banks as Oberon led the pack with his mirthful, easygoing presence as he watched and subtly manipulated the goings on in the forest, while others hammed it up, stressing the absurdities of the language. The common folk—workers who put on the ridiculous play-within-a-play—worked well together and kept things light. The two marriageable maids were well cast, and Nicola Rinow as Helena brought energetic pathos to her role as the rejected and then exaulted—and bemused—lover, using broad physical comedy to bring the role to life.
The stage was small, and the sets were simple if clever, and the whole thing had the distinct feel of a really good high school play. Despite some mild sexual undertones, with its unusual conceit, this musically infused production would be a good one to introduce young adults to Shakespeare. The family-friendly production plays through May 22 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturday 8 p.m.
Sunday 3 p.m.,
Tickets are $25. Students $10, Seniors: $20. Tickets are available at www.petheater.com and 773-404-7336.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at ” A Midsummer Night’s Dream”